LYNCHBURG, Va. - No. 5 Charleston Southern's Big South Championships run came to an end in the semifinal round as the Buccaneers fell in a hard-fought contest to No. 1 Radford on Saturday afternoon in the Vines Center, 53-50.
After trailing most of the game, CSU (18-13) made a late run to take the 49-48 lead with 2:45 left in the contest following a Ke'Asia Jackson layup. Radford's Janayla White responded with a layup and Khiana Johnson connected on a pair of late free throws to give the Highlanders (24-7) the 52-49 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Alyssa Mann and White traded free throws in the final 11 seconds of the contest to give Radford the 53-50 lead as CSU held the final possession of the contest. The Bucs swung the ball around the arc with Rachel Burns attempting the three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, but her attempt was blocked by Jayda Worthy and time ran out before CSU could attempt a second shot to end the game.
Rachel Burns paced the Bucs on the afternoon with 15 points with 10 coming in the first half as CSU nearly overcame a double-digit deficit before the halftime buzzer. Alyssa Mann added 13 points and a pair of assists in her final collegiate game, while Ke'Asia Jackson had 11 points and three rebounds in the loss.
White led the Highlanders to the win and Championship Game berth with a team-high 16 points and 12 rebounds. Destinee Walker added 13 points and 10 boards, while Worthy had 11 points and six rebounds as Radford used its height inside to record the 32-10 scoring advantage in the paint.
Radford held the 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter with the Highlanders taking advantage of a 13-7 rebounding advantage paced by six points and seven rebounds from Walker. Jackson connected on an early three-pointer while Mann scored the Bucs' final three points of the period to narrow the margin to four after 10 minutes.
The Highlanders rattled off the first six points of the second quarter on their way to building a double-digit lead as Worthy and Johnson both converted a pair of free throws from the line. Burns cut into the RU lead with a three-pointer from the corner at the 6:24 mark, but CSU's offense was unable to connect until the final two minutes.
The Bucs mounted a 9-0 run to end the first half with Mann sparking the stretch with a jumper in transition. Burns added five points during the stretch before Mann capped the scoring with a steal and jumper with five seconds left in the quarter to end the half with CSU trailing 28-26.
CSU kept Radford within a two-possession game in the third quarter as the Highlanders were unable to stretch their lead to more than four points over the period. Elyse Kiploks was fouled on a late layup and converted the free throw attempt to send the teams into the fourth with the Bucs trailing 38-37.
Mann and Breannah Bretches connected on back-to-back three-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to give CSU its first lead since the 9:19 mark in the first quarter as the Bucs went ahead 47-46. White responded for the Highlanders with a pair of layups to swing the advantage back to the Highlanders before her late-game defensive efforts closed out the win.
- Charleston Southern falls to 0-10 in Big South semifinal games following the loss to the No. 1 seed Highlanders on Saturday afternoon. It was the Bucs' first semifinal appearance since the 2012 season when CSU fell to No. 1 Liberty.
- The Bucs finish the season tying the single season record with 18 wins in the 2016-17 year. CSU last won 18 games in the 1998-99 season when the Bucs went 18-10.
- The Bucs set the new program standard for Big South wins in a single season with CSU posting 11 conference victories in 2016-17.
"I'm so proud of this team. This is a team that's gutted it out year-round and a team that was determined to win and change the culture at Charleston Southern University and they did that this year. It starts with our leadership on the team with everyone buying into it. Our seniors to our freshmen all bought in and they did that and had a great year," – CSU head coach Fred Applin.
They Said It
"Radford had a good start, but we came back and kept it close. The jump we had toward the end of the first half was helpful. We always came back and always played hard and super proud of what we accomplished this year," - CSU redshirt senior guard Alyssa Mann